In 1975, Lucas Hansen was the first child in the world to be adopted by a woman with a kidney transplant. It was not an easy path for Mary and Mickey Hansen, of rural Buffalo, Minn. The adoption agency they worked with put many roadblocks in their way, at one point telling the couple that they could not adopt due to Mary’s health risks.
After some convincing arguments from Mary’s doctors, and official intervention by then Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, on December 21, 1974, the same agency that had previously told them they couldn’t adopt told the couple they had a baby boy coming from Korea.
Things were great, until time took its toll on Mary's kidneys. Finally, when he was just 8 years old, Luke’s mom passed away, leaving Mickey to raise him on his own.
Fast-forward now, 28 years later. Luke, at the age of 36, now a father of two adopted children in St. Michael, was watching his other parent struggle with kidney problems.
Eventually, Mickey was told that he, too, would need a transplant.
The odds were slim. But if Luke was a match, he was going to help his dad.
“It wasn’t a question,” when it came to helping his dad out when he ended up needing a kidney this year.
“It was within the same phone call,” Luke’s wife, Sarah said. “It happened so quickly.”
The procedure has improved a lot in the 30 years since Luke’s mom, Mary, had her transplant. The fact that Mary died 10 years after receiving a kidney from her mother in 1973 wasn’t that uncommon in the 1980s.
“It’s a high survival rate,” Sarah said.
“You have to change some things, but you can live a pretty normal life [after donation],” Luke said.
Seventy-two year old Mickey, a disabled veteran, had been on dialysis due to his kidney failure when doctors told him he needed a kidney.
“If he went on the cadaver list, he would be waiting 4-5 years,” Luke shared.
In March of this year, Luke, along with eight others, went in to find out if any one of them were a match for his Mickey.
“There was no way he was going to be a match,” Mickey said laughing, “Think of the odds. His brother [and Mickey’s biological son, Greg, from a previous marriage] had been ruled out already, and I didn’t think Luke would be.”
The only issue was Luke’s blood pressure, which he worked hard to lower through diet and exercise.
“I wore a monitor 24 hours to keep track of where I was at,” Luke said.
“Luke kept telling me he had to do this for me, and I kept telling him he didn’t,” Mickey said through tears. “Luke told me ‘Dad, you gave me a chance at life, and now I’m going to give you one.’ ”
The procedures and tests are grueling.
“Basically they want to make sure you’re healthy and that you’re not going to need your kidney five or 10 years down the road,” Luke said of the process.
The Friday before Memorial Day, Luke and Mickey went in to the University of Minnesota Fairview Hospital to have the transplant.
The surgeries are staggered. Luke went in first and shortly after they got started on him, his dad went into the neighboring operating room. After nearly six hours of surgery for both of them, the transplant was complete.
Recovery has been tough for Luke, who has been home from work for the last two weeks.
“I initially thought two weeks would be plenty of time to recover, but I’m not ready mentally or physically. So I’ll be staying home one more week,” Luke said. “My energy level has been low and I barely have an appetite.”
Doctors had a hard time removing Luke’s kidney. There were some anatomical issues. But the kidney was healthy, and Luke’s muscles will heal.
Sarah added in, “he’s tired and he’s lost some weight.”
As for his dad? Mickey, says, “I’m recovering well. They’ve had to adjust my anti-rejection medication but the kidney is doing its job.”
“I’d do it again,” Luke said. “Without a doubt. It’s worth it.”
“He’s given me the best Father’s Day present I could get. I’m very grateful because it took a lot of courage,” Mickey said. “I guess the gift of life has made a full circle.”